Asheville Mountain Real Estate Blog

Asheville, NC real estate for sale. Information for buyers, sellers and mountain homeowners, without pressure. Rich content for those who are far away about what it is like to live here through the generous use of media. And some nostalgia with our, "Baby Boomers' Fun Stuff", Thanks for stopping by.

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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

April 2008 Housing Statistics

Every month, we round up the pertinent supply-demand numbers here...

The Quick Summary
The same story of very high inventories and very low demand, with prices not falling at appropriate rates.

Supply Factors
Permits, Starts, Completions, (PDF): These indexes declined 34.3%, 30.6%, and 34.9% respectively from the already depressed levels of April, 2007. Paper Economy notes that single family permits:
...the most leading of indicators, again suggests extensive weakness in future construction activity dropping 40.07% nationally as compared to April 2007. Moreover, every region showed significant double digit declines to permits with the West declining 50.19%, the Midwest declining 34.13%, the South declining 38.24%, and the Northeast declining 32.58%. (Emphasis added).
Go here, for an interesting look at how the permits and starts data was reported in the media.

New Home Inventories, (PDF): A 10.6 months' supply of new homes. This is 43% more than one year ago, and 68% more than April, 2006. Those low permit numbers will have to persist, combined with lower prices to work this inventory back to normalcy.

Existing Home Inventories, (PDF): An 11.2 months' supply. It was a 10 months' supply at the end of March, 2008. The current inventory of existing homes for sale is 72% higher than 2006, and 149% greater than 2005. This was a big jump, and the subject of tons of commentary.

Interest Rate Roundup, called it a "surge", Business Week, "eye popping", and Paper Economy, "stunning".

Demand Indexes
New Home Sales, (PDF): A disappointing 42% less than April, 2007. Like some of the inventory numbers, this was greeted with an array of exclamations, such as cliff diving, and startling. New home sales are now 62% less than the peak of 2005.

March and April are normally two of the largest months of the year for new home sales nationally. The median sales price was $246,100.

In the South, new home sales were down 41.7% from April, 2007.

Existing Home Sales, (PDF): Sales units were down 18% from a year ago while prices were down roughly 8% from April, 2007, the second largest historical decline.

In the South, existing home sales were down 18.1%, and median prices by 5.1%.

Forecast
No need to be on one's toes to pick the bottom, even the approach to a bottom will take several months to play out.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Baby Boomer Thursdays: 1967 - The Summer of Love

No real estate on Thursdays, just some baby boomer fun...

Memorial Day is behind us, and summer has begun. Let's recall a summer, some 41 years ago, that of 1967, the so called Summer of Love.

It was the year that the media made America aware of things like Haight-Ashbury, hippies, and all that went with the population bubble of teenaged baby boomers.

Here is a nice ballad that was a Top 10 hit, and speaks to those times from Scott McKenzie. McKenzie was closely identified with another archetype from that summer, The Mamas and the Papas.

Here we go, 2 minutes and some odd seconds of If You're Going to San Francisco, (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair).
ENJOY !

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Little TV to Start the Week

Let's ease back into the work week with a little video. 3 minutes and 28 seconds from Market Watch with David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.

This is a calm, empirical, and very macro level discussion of housing, oil, and consumer sentiment.

Salient Points
Existing home inventories at a 23 year high, sales down 30% from the peak, sector hardest hit is homes at the higher end, with home prices in general expected to decline further, before delving into consumer patterns and retail data.



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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Four Essentials From the Eighth Grade for Buyers & Sellers

Think about life. Isn't it true, that almost everything we ever needed to negotiate the world, we learned the basics by the eighth grade? Here are four tools from those halcyon days to help us assess our decisions as either a home buyer or seller.

1) The Law of Supply and Demand
We spent a lot of time with the law of supply and demand in grammar school, and we should hang onto it in adulthood. Even futures traders, a fairly esoteric group by most standards, begin with supply and demand before taking a market position. Nothing magical or advanced about that, it's the basics, and it happens long before they look at such things as a stop limit order or inter delivery spread. Why should housing be any different?

So don't put the cart before the horse. Before we speculate about such things as Fed policy or last month's sales data, we want to know the more basic picture:
How many homes are for sale, how many are being sold, what are the prices, and how much have those those items changed from some meaningful benchmark, like the same quarter of the previous year or years?

At our firm, we also consider it important to know how a local market compares regionally and nationally, if it is ahead or behind the curve, and why that might be so.

Now we have in our hands, the same tools that even the most sophisticated commodities broker would begin with. We can evaluate for ourselves what it means when we hear things like, "The market is good, our firm sold X houses last month", and so much more. Ask for it. Accept no substitute for what is likely the largest transaction of one's life.

2) Arithmetic
Remember My Dear Aunt Sally? For those who learned without mnemonic devices, that's "MDAS", or multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction . It's arithmetic. Here is one simple example from housing.

Prices are falling lately, finally, and it is common to see faxes or emails such as, "Price Reduced by $XXXXX". No one can fault agents for that, indeed they are doing their job. But our thought would be to suggest, "Who cares about the dollar amount, what was the percentage change, and is that enticing given current supply-demand scenarios?".

An email or a flyer announcing a $50,000 decrease might sound pretty exciting, but we want to know more. On an $800,000 home, this boils down to a reduction of only 6.25%. For a $600,000 home, it's 8.33%, and so forth.

For sellers who really need to sell, consider the percentages of supply and demand. Anything else might result in what is called chasing the market. A little arithmetic can serve all of us, even to decide if it makes any sense to buy or sell at all.

3) The News Can Be Slanted
In grammar school, we used the word "slanted" to mean bias in the newspaper or TV. This was part of those those famous who, what, when, where, why and how lessons. Nowadays we call it spin. It can be intentional or inadvertent, it hardly matters.

In real estate for some reason, sales data is usually reported in the headlines by comparison to the previous month. Here is one recent story under the banner, Home Sales Rose in February. The immediate reaction from the informed buyer or seller should be, "Really? Compared to what?".

It takes about 20 seconds looking at this chart, or this article from The Big Picture to see that real estate is notoriously seasonal. Thus a comparison of February to January, or maybe a report that 2ndQ sales rose compared to 1stQ sales are just meaningless pieces of information. The Wall Street Journal took a recent look at this phenomenon. The value of proper comparisons is summarized in this single sentence:
While sales were up slightly from January, they were still 24% below a year earlier.
4) A Stream Can Rise No Higher Than Its Source
Our eighth grade teacher always said this to warn us not to state or to accept things as fact without knowing a source for that information. This can be difficult to catch, especially when we encounter things we are inclined to accept as truisms.

A recent theme in housing goes something like this; 1) Lots of inventory is a wide selection for you, 2) Prices are falling, so that's good for you, 3) And the value of a home will always rise, you can bet on it.

Let's pause for a moment to recognize that statements 2 and 3 cannot exist at the same time, not in this universe at any rate. Let's also recognize that IF statement # 3 were true, then a graph of housing prices would be a constant upward line. That's not what markets do.

Consider this chart from Yale economist Robert Shiller, then consider that the average American owns a home for around 7 years. There can be no argument that values do not simply rise. It is the timing of a home purchase that has every bearing on whether the value increases or not at the time of sale. This is elementary, and making money on a home purchase is more complicated than simple slogans. It's far too easy to be seduced, so be aware. The NY Times offers added textual detail on values over time.

The real estate transaction is the biggest thing most of us will do in our lives, and hopefully a few lessons from the eighth grade can help us along the way.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Asheville: 2008 Guide to White Water Rafting

It is Memorial Day Weekend, the somewhat official kick off to summertime and leisure across the USA. As such, we thought we would bring up some articles of enduring interest for visitors about Asheville's recreational and summer fun scene. Our first for 2008, will be complete resources for white water rafting.

Approximately 500,000 people raft somewhere in Western North Carolina each year. The majority of this activity is centered on five rivers, and the choice about where to go is a bit more complicated than picking up a brochure, especially in dry seasons.

You want to get the most for your money, rafting is not an inexpensive activity. Here are two articles that provide great detail to assist in your family decisions.

In this article from last July, we examine rivers that are "free flowing" vs rivers that are "dam controlled", and what this means. Current rainfall, or the lack of it, can impact river levels, so the experience you imagined may not be the experience you paid for. Rivers featured at that link are The French Broad, The Nolichucky Gorge, and The Big Pigeon. All are within 60 minutes of Asheville.

In this article from 2007, we turn our attention to the world famous Nantahala River, and the lesser known Tuckaseegee, both near Bryson City, NC.

Have fun and be safe!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Baby Boomer Thursdays: Paul Anka 1957

No real estate on Thursdays, just some baby boomer fun...

Paul Anka was 16 years old when he first hit #1 on the US charts with the song Diana in 1957. Anka was versatile as his filmography demonstrates, as well as his ability to write music.

Well known tunes penned by Paul Anka include, Lonely Boy, Put Your Head On My Shoulder, Theme From The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and She's a Lady, by Tom Jones.

Essential Paul Anka Links
Website
Filmography at IMDB
Biography at History of Rock

This Week's Video Clip
From his 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
2 minutes and 9 Seconds
ENJOY !

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Housing Starts: Behind the Headlines Part 2

Yesterday, we examined the recent headlines about housing starts. When looking behind those reports, we found that the much heralded 8.2% increase was entirely the result of starts on multi family dwellings of five or more units, and not related to single family homes. Single family starts remain roughly 40% less than last year.

There is however, a bright spot in another recent report. Calculated Risk offers the following key insight and data:
It now appears that starts are running below sales, and completions have fallen to the level of sales. Note: when adjusted for cancellations, completions are probably also below sales, and the inventory of New Homes is finally declining.
This goes to the very heart of supply and demand, and is something we have been waiting a very long time, really, to see in the present market. Maybe, the balance between sellers' prices and buyers' willingness will actually lower those inventories in the months ahead.

New home inventories, in the latest data available represent an 11 month supply, it would be nice to see that drop to 6 months. Existing home inventories for the latest data stood at a 9.9 months' supply. The year 2005 came in at 4.5 months, while 2006 stood at 6.5 months.

The bottom, or even the approach to the bottom, is still a long way off with numbers like that, but a glimmer of hope perhaps. Like any commodities or securities trader would do, we will look for confirmation in the months ahead.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Housing Starts Up 8.2%? - Behind the Headlines

We would not ordinarily write here about housing starts until all the April, 2008 numbers are in, sometime in the latter part of next week. However, we wanted to go behind the headlines for our readers as some confusion about this report has already been heard in our neighborhood.

Google the news on the most recent housing starts, scan the headlines, and one might assume some optimism at last. Here's a quick review that provides the background.

We do wish this was cause for optimism, finally, but it's not, and the importance of delivering context on our blog means we look a little deeper.

The Background of it All
Single family permits, starts, and completions unfortunately remain down from a year ago by 40.07%, 42.23%, and 37.63% respectively. Then why the rosy headlines?

From Business Week
:
Let me quickly dispel any notion that the 8.2% surge in housing starts in April reported by the Commerce Department on May 16 was a positive sign for real estate, or that it has much significance at all.

The rise was fueled by a 40.5% leap in construction starts on multifamily homes of five or more units – a monthly statistic that is notoriously volatile (April’s increase followed a 35% decrease in March and a 24% increase in February).
Interest Rate Roundup, a moderate voice, shows just how wildly the multi family sector can swing, with seven months of data there.

From Matrix:
“The headline increase in starts means nothing; it is all due to a rebound in the hugely volatile, but essentially trendless, multi-family sector,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.
Here is the PDF from The Census Department for those who wish.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Renovating and Updating Your Home

A little light hearted look for a Saturday at some ideas for bathroom renovations in order to sell your home in this buyers' market.

The video clip below looks at The Monsanto House of the Future, a Disney Land attraction from 1957 until 1967. First noticed by us at the concept blog, Paleo Future, which can certainly provide some interesting browsing of visions of the future from the past.

2 minutes and 35 Seconds..have a great Saturday!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Baby Boomer Thursdays: Billy Joe Royal

No real estate on Thursdays, just some baby boomer fun...

Billy Joe Royal was a favorite in the 1960's, and had a decent run of top singles. Boomers will remember the tunes, Down in the Boondocks, which peaked at # 9 on the Billboard charts, I Knew You When, another Top 20, and in 1969, a song that reached # 15 on Billboard, Cherry Hill Park.

Billy Joe Royal Links
Website
Billy Joe's MY Space Page, with several tunes.
Billy Joe Royal Video Search

This Week's Video Clip
Down in the Boondocks-2 minutes and 24 seconds. A great song to this day, and some slick 1960's dance moves at approximately 1:20
ENJOY !

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

March 2008 Housing Statistics

A little late this month, but as expected, no changes in the trends from most of the past year.

Supply
New Permits, Starts, and Completions, (PDF): These indexes fell by 40.9%, 36.5%, and 24.5% respectively. This is testament to the lengths to which builders are going in order to decrease inventories. The numbers have looked like this for many months now, with little or no change in months of supply on hand.

Calculated Risk points this out as the lowest levels since 1991, while Housing Intelligence characterizes these numbers as being near the lows for other downturns, perhaps that's a glimmer of hope. Interest Rate Roundup echoes the prevailing sentiment that perhaps this will finally reduce supply and restore balance.

New Home Inventories, (PDF): An 11 month supply, the highest in the last year.

Paper Economy notes sentiment among the builders:
It’s important to understand that sales for the new home market generally peak in the February-April time frame and that this year’s results have been generally disappointing as noted by Sandy Dunn, current president of the NAHB “With the traditional home buying season now well underway, we have not seen the bump in sales activity that we normally would this time of year,”
The all time high is from April, 1980, when new home inventories stood at 11.6 months.

Existing Home Inventories, (PDF): Existing homes now stand at a 9.9 months' supply. By comparison, the year 2005 came in at 4.5 months, while 2006 stood at 6.5 months.

Measures of Demand
New Home Sales, (PDF): 36.6% less than the already depressed numbers from March, 2007. Calculated Risk notes that this is less than half of the normal March patterns, and a record low.

Paper Economy always has graphs and a nice regional breakdown. In the South, new home sales were only down by 25.9% from a year ago.

Existing Home Sales, (PDF): 19.3% less than March, 2007.

Interest Rate Roundup notes that median prices fell 7.7% from a year ago, while Paper Economy in its regional breakdown, points out that sales in the South were down 20%, and median prices down 7.1% from March, 2007. The NY Times provides more detail.

Outlook?

These all boil own to roughly the same thing. Fannie Mae says 2010, Eli Broad of KB Homes says another 20% decline in prices will restore the market. This is not remarkably different from what we noted last month, with statements from Paul Krugman, Robert Samuleson and Merril-Lynch.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Falling Values and Rising Property Taxes?

A friend of a friend called recently with his latest bill for property taxes in a neighboring county, unhappy because his assessment had risen. Knowing the state of the market with declining sales and values, he was interested in gathering some data by which to file an appeal. Here's a little added information for those who might be in the same situation.

From Lenderama:
According to the National Taxpayers Association, approximately 60% of taxable property in the U.S. is over-assessed. That’s the majority, folks! The majority of you — and the majority of your clients — are paying too much in property taxes. The good news is that filing an appeal is relatively easy, and 33% of appeals are successful.
That's good to know, and a little time on Google shows that this is a very topical issue across the country lately. Intuitively, it certainly makes sense that assessed values would drop in this type of a market.

However, it seems to be a function of whatever laws are on the books in your locality. These may or may not take current market conditions into account, so that in some states or communities we see the paradox of falling values, but rising tax assessments.

A year ago The Wall Street Journal noted that the phenomenon was fuel for a rebellion among citizens, citing a record number of appeals in various areas. The article also points out some intricacies of local law that operate to the disadvantage of taxpayers in times like this.

In Indiana, state law requires that assessed values increase by the last year's rate of inflation, without apparent regard to current market values. The paradox is not unknown in Massachusetts. Let's just assume that the point about the quirks of local law has been made.

Taxpayers inclined to question their bills might start with some tips found in this 3 minute and 24 second audio clip from National Public Radio, which doesn't require much more effort than simply looking at the bill for a start. The next step would be to determine what method of valuation is being used in your community.

Local Tax Links
Madison County, NC
Buncombe County
Yancey County

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Monday, May 12, 2008

We Made the List in The Carnival of Real Estate-Thanks!

Thanks very much to Larry Cragun for hosting and judging the latest edition of the Carnival of Real Estate. We were honored to be among those mentioned for our article on providing a framework for a seller's verbal representations about utility costs, and rapidly rising energy markets.

The Carnival was hosted at The Seattle Post Intelligencer Blogs, please also visit Larry's home blog, Real Estate Undressed.

Here are the other winners for this week:
Scott Roemermann: Financial Analysis of the Deal: A Real Estate Investor's Most Important Skill?

Amy Bohutinsky: Nice analysis of home owner perceptions vs. reality of current home values.

Dan Melson: Buyers, Asking Price, and Days on the Market

Jennifer Kirby: Homeonwers Want to be Lied To, a look at the being frank with respect to list prices. Catchy title also.

Scott Fisek: What I Would Like to Say to Wannabe Real Estate Investors, but Shouldn't

Dan Green: Myth Busted: Relationship Between ARM and Fixed-Rate Mortgages

Sherry Chris: I Want My, I Want My, I Want My … Traffic

Jonathan Kinard: Buy a House for $100 a Month

Craig Schiller: The A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s of Home Staging

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Utility Costs and The Home Sale: Digging Deeper For Buyers

More than you ever wanted to know on utilities, but in the words of one well known RE blog, a post of enduring interest?

Barbara Corcoran, had a recent question on her blog. A home buyer was presented with a seller's verbal representation that monthly utility bills for their home were low. Should the buyer ask to see the statements for electricity, heat, and so forth to make sure? Is this rude?

We have featured Barbara on numerous occasions, and have learned from her. Click here to see her answer, which is to ask for utility bills from the last 6 months. Here are some additional thoughts of our own.

Utilities & Heat: A Bigger Piece of the Pie
This is legitimate information for buyers to know, especially in the last 18 months. In the last 6 months alone, NYMEX heating oil is up 45%, while natural gas, and propane are closer to 100%, (source for charts). Electricity is also in the news with rate increases of 30% appearing likely.

It would not be unreasonable to think that say, a 1,500 sq ft home in the northeast would cost $500+/month for #2 oil in the next heating season. Now add electricity. Those kinds of numbers start to become material facts, beyond any historical levels.

Doing Some Homework
With energy prices up 45% or more, the bills from the last 6 months might not reveal anything. But we can take some of our time to do well. And why not? We sell homes, and with energy costs this prominent, a working familiarity with some basic ideas here can only make us better, and our clients happier.

Making Sense of the Old Utility Bills
To solve this, it's more complicated than looking at the seller's old bills and then having the buyers make some comparison to their home. Some parameters need to be in our minds. Mixing and matching the variables below could surprisingly skew the costs, and the data in those bills, by 30%.

Did the sellers use COD terms for their heating fuel? The difference in price vs automatic delivery can be 10% around here. How do the buyers prefer to buy fuel?

If the seller paid their winter fuel vendor on a monthly budget plan, or locked in a price for last heating season, then the validity of those old utility bills becomes murky.

What about personal habits and the thermostat setting? The difference in cost between 68 and 72 degrees F in winter is 12%. The same 12% per 4 degrees applies for air conditioning in the summer.

Maybe the buyers have children, while the seller's became empty nesters a while back. For modern kids, that probably means televisions and PC's in the bedrooms. Two more televisions, and two more PC's could add as much as $70/month. Going back to our example of a 1,500 sq ft northeastern home, that's more than a 10% difference between the buyer and seller.

One can take such things ad infinitum. Examine those old bills with care and thought is the lesson.

What the Buyer is Really Asking?
Our guess is that no one is asking what utilities used to cost, but that the buyer really wants to know, "What WILL this home cost me for heat and power if I buy it?" None of us can answer that question, especially lately. But we CAN provide a ballpark for them on heating and cooling at today's prices for that house, and look pretty nifty doing it.

For Heating, we begin with what type of fuel does the seller's home use? Or maybe our buyers are considering a fuel change after the purchase. Some time back, we constructed this helpful fuel comparison tool for just such purposes.

By following the steps, and using only multiplication and division, one is able to provide a snapshot of heating costs to the square foot for #2 fuel, kerosene, natural gas, propane or electricity. With all of the emphasis about being hyperlocal this business, it wouldn't be a bad idea for a firm to have a handle on regional fuel costs either.

For Cooling: Since A/C is generated with electricity, we don't have the problem of converting fuel values. The web is filled with models to calculate cooling costs, here is a good start from Wikipedia.

Final Thoughts: The Human Element

Everyone wants a smooth transaction. But, it can be a minefield of personalities out there. The emotional content is such that the parties are cordial one day, at odds the next. It's no one's fault, it's human nature, and it's our job to navigate all that.

Communications 101 teaches us that there is always the message sent vs. the message received, and to consider ourselves lucky if the 'twain shall ever meet. The flow of information in real estate however is more complicated than a simple dialog. From buyer to buyer's agent, to seller's agent to seller, and back again is a delicate path to tread.

So, does one want to ask about the seller's personal habits and old utility bills? How will the seller perceive the question? As an accusation? By saying, "I already told you that"?, With courtesy? It's different in every case.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Baby Boomer Thursdays: Dustin Hoffman, MPG, and The 1966 Volkswagen

No real estate, instead most Thursdays are baby boomer days, so here we go ..

Here is a topical little video clip of a VW commercial. It is Dustin Hoffman, a year before his breakthrough role in The Graduate, pitching the 1966 VW Fastback.

The clip is topical, given the state of gasoline prices, and beacuse the car got 27 mpg at the time. Rather sadly, this is higher than the average mpg in the US today, which peaked at 26.2 mpg in 1987.

1966 gasoline prices were $0.30/gallon, which is $1.93 adjusted for inflation.

1 Minute..VW always had clever TV ads. ENJOY


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Monday, May 05, 2008

Asheville Foreclosure Statistics: First Quarter 2008

Of late, The Asheville Citizen Times is on a small flurry of local real estate news and reports. Their latest installment has to do with foreclosures in our Western Counties.

The bottom line is that the Asheville region is experiencing foreclosures at a rate that is roughly one-third that of North Carolina as a whole. The Tar Heel State itself comes in at around one-half of the national average, which is still high enough to rank 18th in the nation.

With foreclosures on a national basis up 112% from last year, the phenomenon represents a significant source of pent up supply. We have written about several, possibly overlooked sources of pent up supply in the past.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Tale of Two Celebrities: Go Green or Take a Walk?

For today, let's peek at two celebrities with two radically different tales about home ownership.

Andie Goes Green
First up, is well known Asheville resident Andie MacDowell, yes, you can see her around town from time to time. The Wall Street Journal informs us that our favorite local movie star is following through on one of the latest trends in housing, going green. Just something that makes sense to us given the cost of energy, and the increasingly easy time frame to recoup any investments in such technology. Way to go Andie.

Jose Canseco Walks
On the flip side is Jose Canseco. The six time all star from major league baseball has decided to take a walk, but not the type to which he is accustomed. Instead, Jose is taking advantage of another trend in real estate these days, he is walking away from his mortgage.

Walk Away? You Can Do That?
This has been a pretty popular story line in 2008. As adjustable rate mortgages reset, monthly payments increase, while home values decline, so we get an idea that is disturbing to some and tempting to others.

Google the term how to walk away from your mortgage, and it appears that a veritable industry has been born, with all manner of companies and websites providing advice on how to simply walk away from your mortgage. One of the first ones we heard about was youwalkaway.com. Wow.

With foreclosures, most recently at 112% more than a year ago, this seems like something that won't go away very soon, and could very well increase the streams of pent up supply in an already grossly oversupplied market.

Here is an 8 minute video from 60 Minutes back in late January which is quite concise, the first 3 minutes or so deal directly with the phenomenon of walking away.


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Asheville Area Building Permits Decline by Half

The Asheville Citizen Times ran a story earlier this week, which can be summarized in the following quote:
A region of 10 Western North Carolina counties centered around Buncombe showed similar results. Units permitted slid 47.9 percent, from 1,487 to start 2007 to 781 this year.
This has to be seen as good news representing a solid step towards bringing our Western North Carolina housing markets back into balance with respect to supply and demand.

For some time now, one cannot drive through Asheville without seeing a half dozen billboards announcing new mountain lifestyle communities, long after the national market had begun its decline. The overwhelming feeling has been, where is the demand for so much new inventory going to come from?

How Does This Compare Nationally?
This retreat by local builders is a bit greater than those that have been seen for the first quarter of 2008 nationally. In the United States as a whole, comparing to the same month of the previous year, the declines looked like this:
Januray, 2008 permits declined by 33.1% from 2007.
February came in at 36.5% less than February, 2007.
March national numbers, (PDF), showed a 40.9% decline in new permits.

Housing markets locally have the same fundamental problems as we have seen nationally, and these are summarized quite well from The Citizen Times article:
In most markets, the level of production (of homes) far exceeded the capacity of the market to absorb it.
Like anywhere, it will take some fair amount of time yet to undo all of this and restore balance.

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